Tabernacle was the third place that I visited when I started looking for a church home. I liked the Wednesday night lectures and visiting with BTSR and Camp Alkulana friends. I appreciated that Tabernacle was a ministry simulator for seminary students. I was charmed by the way it honored the coming and going of its members with bread for the journey. I loved that the leadership of Sunday services reflected the diversity in the pews. And, as I get distracted as easily as I get tearful during worship, I was glad that I could sit by myself on Sundays.
You know those people at the pool, the ones that go from dry to underwater with one cannon ball or dive? I’m not one of them. I’m one of those “toe test people.” It takes me a while unless there’s an audience, in which case it takes an eternity. That’s just me in part but also my church experience. Like most people with ministry experience, I know about going through the wringer. Every minister I know has been disappointed or burnt at some point in the course of their ministerial service. Every church goer I know has stories of being both loved and wounded by the community entrusted with Christ’s message.
It wasn’t long before Sterling and Judy were on to me. He did his recon with my church friends and asked if I’d like to go for “coffee.” Naturally, I braced myself for the “how are you going to plug in deeper here?” bit. Judy, I knew from our BTSR days, where I sang in the school choir. Between those two the jig was up, dashing my plans of hiding out barefoot in the balcony.
I’ve lived long enough to learn that risk and love are traveling buddies. I knew it was time to put my shoes on and walk the aisle one Sunday morning to join Tabernacle. It’s that aisle walking bit that I don’t like. Apparently, there’s no backdoor membership plan void of that front-and-center-while-the-pastor-talks-about-you part. Believe me, I asked. So I stood there embracing the awkward as Sterling welcomed me. As he did so, hand on my shoulder, he said, “we thank you for your trust.”
Trust. Love. They are always risks. They are the courageous vehicles that open us up to the deep joys and sorrows of ourselves and of life together with God. And here’s the kicker: we’re gonna mess up. From the pulpit to the taco casserole I’ve heard us share our stories of following and flailing as disciples of Christ. This is one of the brightest lights that I find in this place: people striving to show up, just as they are, daring to be blessed and broken together.
I’m thankful. I’m grateful for the solidarity in this crazy story of a God who puts skin on, loves, dies, and lives again, to make all things new. Our efforts to love and understand things in light of that story will be fraught with: failure and success, joy and sorrow, rest and struggle, frustration and calm, annoyance and laughter… But Christ’s were too. That gives me hope that we are bumbling in the right direction and gladness to be doing so together.
God, please help us find the courage to receive and accept love, affirmation, and gifts from you and from our neighbors. It can be scary. In that receiving, may we risk being known, being givers and friends, when it’s tempting to hide as benefactors.
God, may your grace inspire us to courageously “show up” with you and with one another. Please be our strength when we find ourselves being changed, blessed, challenged, or grieved from doing so.
God, please lend your wisdom and bless us with a vision that serves you and your children. Show us how to listen and how to speak up in the visioning process.
And gracious God, thank you for loving us and letting us share in this kingdom of yours, toes, cannon balls, bumbling, and all.